Top 25 Chat With Aaron Fitt

Moderator: Aaron will begin chatting at 2:30 p.m. ET.

 Q:  Matt from Columbia, Mo asks:
Aaron, you were in the wrong Columbia for pitching. I know you guys have tons of love for Stephen Strasburg, but honestly is there a better pitcher in the country right now than Kyle Gibson? He has put up rediculous numbers up against Texas and Texas A&M. Also, what seems to be up with A&M's Barret Loux. I was really looking forward to a big Tepesch v. Loux bout on Sunday, and it was kind of a let down.

Aaron Fitt: Hi everyone, sorry I'm a few minutes late. Strasburg has been the best pitcher in the nation this year�he's averaging more than 19 strikeouts per nine innings, and the NCAA record is around 16�but Gibson and Ryan Berry aren't far behind him. Expectations were very, very high for Gibson (a first-team preseason All-American), and he's living up to them. His improved fastball command is very, very encouraging for his draft stock�he looks like a top-five overall pick to me. As for Loux, his stuff has been pretty good, but his command has been inconsistent.

 Q:  Dayton from St. Louis, MO asks:
Whats the report on AJ Morris? I read last week 88-81 and a good slider, but I was told he has been 90-94 recently. Which is true and where does he position for the draft?

Aaron Fitt: I haven't gotten a report on his stuff from this weekend, but Brad Hill told me last week he's been 88-91, touching 92 pretty regularly, to go along with a very good slider. 90-94 sounds like an exaggeration to me. I know this much: he has really improved his ability to pitch. It's amazing how many front-line Friday night guys there are in the Big 12 this year.

 Q:  Colby from (Little Rock) asks:
I expected Arkansas may move up a little more then they did, what is keeping the hogs out of the top 10? 6-0 in the sec with a two game lead on the rest of the conference speaks for itself. The nonconference schedule has been very good too with the team featuring a #7 RPI.

Aaron Fitt: There's a little bit of a logjam there in the top half of the rankings. I've been very, very impressed with Oklahoma, Arkansas and Georgia Tech, and Mississippi has been playing very well also. There's just no room to jump the Hogs up, so we've moved them steadily up each week. It's worth noting that seven of our preseason top 10 teams remain in the top 10, which tells you the teams that were supposed to perform mostly have.

 Q:  Gary from Salt Lake City asks:
what's the deal with TCU's starting pitching? Looks like thats their only weakness right now. They can hit and they have a pretty solid bullpen with Appleby, Cragin, and Marshal.

Aaron Fitt: Lockwood's never going to be overpowering, and Hoelscher's going through some command troubles right now. It looked like Kyle Winkler turned the corner last Sunday, when he was 88-93 with a power 81 mph curveball and a very good 83 mph changeup, but he was hammered this week. Have patience with him. Steven Maxwell and Greg Holle should give them some more power options in the rotation as the season goes forward.

 Q:  Josh from Frankfort, KY asks:
How close is KY to being a top-25 team? Is there a better 1-2 starting pitchers then Paxton/Rusin? And then there is Meyer Sundays.

Aaron Fitt: Pretty close. I really believe in Kentucky's talent (especially the more I hear about their arms from scouts and coaches), but they just don't quite have a top 25 resume yet. This weekend was Kentucky's first series win against a potential regional team, and right now Vandy looks like a fringe regional team. Against the best teams on its schedule (LSU and Coastal Carolina), Kentucky is 1-4.

 Q:  William from Orange Beach, Alabama asks:
If LSU outfielder Jared Mitchell continues at this pace throughout the season, could he go inside the Top 10 in this years draft ? Isn't this the kinda of start scouts wanted to see out of Grant Green ?

Aaron Fitt: I'd be surprised if he went that high because his bat is far from a sure thing, but he's an incredible athlete who has really matured as a hitter. I'd just like to see him do a better job unlocking that big-time raw power. Scouts were underwhelmed by his BP rounds this weekend. I'll be writing more about Mitchell next week.

 Q:  Fred from IL asks:
Eastern Illinois has had an impressive start to the season. Do you see them hitting the top 25 at all this season. Senior outfielder Brett Nommensen is putting up impressive numbers. What do you say?

Aaron Fitt: That was a great weekend at the Bulls Baseball Classic last weekend, highlighted by that win over Oklahoma State, but Eastern Illinois is going to have to do an awful lot to get into the top 25 playing against Ohio Valley competition. Nommensen is a great all-around player with speed, surprising strength, and defense, and it's great to see him having the kind of success he's having. He'll be a tremendous senior sign for some major league club.

 Q:  Harry from Jackson, MS asks:
What is your take on Scott Bittle taking over the #3 pitching slot on weekends and will the Ole Miss Rebels take the series this weekend against the Corndogs...I mean the LSU Tigers?

Aaron Fitt: I think it's the right move. The Rebels desperately need somebody to give them a quality outing on Sundays, because their third starters have just gotten hammered this year. It doesn't do you any good to have an ace in the bullpen if you can't get to him with the game intact. Bittle has the stuff to excel as a starter�his changeup is a very good pitch against lefthanded hitters, and I expect you'll see a good deal more of it now that he'll be starting.

 Q:  Ryan from Greenville, NC asks:
What do you think about East Carolina's offensive production for the week? I realize the competition wasn't the greatest. But to play 5 games, and hang 90 runs and 98 hits is a feat against anyone. Can that offense alone carry them, or do they need to step up elsewhere to contend?

Aaron Fitt: That's a pretty eye-popping offensive display, and while UCF is down, there are many teams out there with a lot less talent. ECU's offense is good enough to carry the Pirates to 40 wins, but their pitching will have to be better if they want to make a run in the postseason. The Sunday starter spot continues to be a major hole. Maybe freshman lefty Kevin Brandt is the answer — he pitched great in relief Sunday.

 Q:  Dean from Trenton, NJ asks:
Any top 25 love for Duke? They played Miami really tough in Miami and then took 2 out of 3 on the road against UNC. Who are the top prospects on their team for this years draft?

Aaron Fitt: Duke is on the radar, but the Devils don't get any credit for almost winning a series at Miami. The bottom line is they were in position to win all three games of that series, and they only walked away with one win. But to bounce back and take two of three at UNC is absolutely huge for Duke's postseason chances. To go 3-3 in back-to-back series at Miami and UNC means Duke survived the toughest part of its schedule. Home series against Wake Forest, NC State and Boston College are all winnable, as is a road series at Maryland. Duke's regional chances are starting to come into focus. Duke's top prospect for this year's draft is Nate Freiman, a senior first baseman with power and a good feel for hitting. I think he's got a chance to go inside the top five rounds.

 Q:  alex kovaler from moscow, russia asks:
Aaron: How do you see the order of finish in the Big West? Does Fullerton have the pitching to go all the way?

Aaron Fitt: I certainly think so. I'll go Fullerton, Irvine, UCSB, Cal Poly, Riverside, Long Beach, Northridge, Pacific, Davis.

 Q:  Kris from Miami,FL asks:
Aaron, What are your thoughts about the Miami/Virginia Series?

Aaron Fitt: I continue to be very impressed with Miami's toughness and resilience. That's a very well-coached team that is maximizing its talent right now. But the Cavs were in all three games and clearly will be a significant factor in the ACC this year.

 Q:  Rick from (Amherst, MA) asks:
Any chance UMASS makes any noise in the A-10 this year?

Aaron Fitt: Not much chance. Charlotte, Rhode Island and Xavier are the teams to beat this weekend (although Fordham upset the 49ers this weekend — yet another upset in a weekend crammed with them).

 Q:  jim from fort myers asks:
Miami's win over Virgina was a hugh step for this young team. Is Coach Morris the leading contender for Coach of the Year? He has reloaded this team with young talent after most of the team headed to the Bigs. Your thoughts. Thanks.

Aaron Fitt: If the season ended today, Morris would be my pick for Coach of the Year.

 Q:  John from Morgantown, WV asks:
Hey Aaron thanks for the chat. My Mountaineers just swept the opening series (albeit against a bad UCONN team) and seem to continue to have a very potent offense. Any chance this team could make some noise or are their numbers and 15-5 record just the result of playing one of the weakest nonconference schedules around??? Your thoughts???

Aaron Fitt: West Virginia's offense is for real. Guys like Jedd Gyorko, Austin Markel, Tobias Streich, Justin Parks and Joe Agrese are all very good players who would be solid contributors for just about any team in the country. That offense will make West Virginia very dangerous, but I worry that the Mountaineers don't have good enough pitching to get to a regional.

 Q:  L.J. Henson from Fayetteville, AR asks:
Do you think Arkansas's 6-0 start in SECis impressive because I don't feel they are getting much attention? What are the Hogs chances of hosting a regional?

Aaron Fitt: It's extremely impressive. Arkansas played a tough nonconference schedule against good teams from the Pac-10 and Big 12, and now they've swept two very talented SEC teams. Arkansas is obviously on course to host a regional, though remember that a lot can happen in the long SEC season. Arkansas isn't going to sweep every series, but my gut says the Hogs will continue to play well and will end up hosting a regional.

 Q:  Mike from Kentucky asks:
After Sunday does Kent Mattes look like a POY candidate for the SEC and NCAA. Two more hr's, with 15 in 22 games, batting over .445 I think. Not just a power hitter.

Aaron Fitt: He's certainly a top candidate for SEC player of the year honors, though I think he'll have a hard time overtaking the Strasburg/Leake/Gibson/Berry group for national player of the year honors.

 Q:  Matt from Buffalo, NY asks:
Army upset Illinois and lost two close games to Ohio State over the weekend, do you think they are ready to make a run through the Patriot League and maybe some noise in the tournament?

Aaron Fitt: Army was my preseason pick to win the Patriot League, and I'll stand by that. Phil Haig and Nick Chmielewski had their way with LSU a couple of weeks ago, and Army beat those two guys on Friday.

 Q:  Jim Rose from bradenton, fl asks:
Aaron, As of this weekend, who have been the top 5 freshman in the country thus far?

Aaron Fitt: In no particular order: Danny Hultzen, Anthony Rendon, Gerrit Cole, Levi Michael, and I'll throw two wild cards out there from this weekend's Tech-Tech series: Georgia Tech's Matt Skole and Virginia Tech's Matthew Price. Yes, I know that's six and you asked for five...

 Q:  Maddog from Ashburn, VA asks:
Okay Aaron, most of my fellow Clemson folks will differ with me when I don't truly object to my Tigers falling out of the Top 25. Although it is a bit confusing. Even though they lost two to FSU, two of the three games went down to the wire (Clemson winning one in the eleventh and FSU winning the other with a walk off). Gilmartin was down right ugly for FSU on Friday night. Other than that, it looked like two pretty equal programs. Could the rankings (or lack of) be a sign that FSU is under-ranked and should receive more attention? And, if so, wouldn't that diminish the impact of Clemson losing two of three and forcing your hand in dropping them out of the 25? Thoughts?

Aaron Fitt: I think Clemson is a better team that Florida State and should have won that series. As you point out, the Tigers were in position to do so Sunday, and they could not finish. The ability to win close games is one of the marks of a good team, and it's the one area where I think Clemson is really lacking. I love the depth of that offense and that pitching staff, but the bottom line is you've got to win series, not almost win series. Clemson has lost two of the last three weekend series, not to mention dropping its only game against South Carolina the weekend before that.

 Q:  Jared from Texas asks:
What are your thoughts on Baylor freshman shortstop Joey Hainsfurther? He leads the team with a .406 average.

Aaron Fitt: He's a great player, with an excellent line-drive bat and the ability to make consistent contact. I'd like him better at second base, though—his natural tools are a little short for shortstop.

 Q:  Luke from Des Moines asks:
How does Oklahoma's Jamie Johnson look draft-wise? He is having a wonderful junior season and seems like a Blake Tekotte-like player with more emphasis on offense.

Aaron Fitt: Brad Hill said last week that he thinks Johnson is just about the best player in the Big 12. He's a good three inches smaller than Tekotte and probably will go a round or two or three later, but other than that your comparison seems pretty good to me.

 Q:  Paul from Phoenix asks:
Is Boston College going to be able to stay in the hunt in the ACC? My gut says no, but they're looking pretty good right now.

Aaron Fitt: I think I'm with you, Paul. My gut says no, but they're looking pretty good right now. I think the rise of Duke hurts their chances, especially since if both are on the bubble, BC has to play at Duke late in the season. But you've got to figure UNC, Miami, Georgia Tech, Virginia, Clemson, Florida State are probably safe for regionals. That leaves Duke, BC and NC State really vying for one or two spots. I have a feeling BC will be the odd team out, unless the Wolfpack fails to build on the momentum gained by winning a series against Wake Forest this weekend. But the schedule looks favorable for NC State to get back on track over the next month.

Aaron Fitt: That's all I've got time for today. Thanks for the questions — see you next week.